God Dethroned is a Dutch death metal band with a career that spans over a quarter century, and a catalog of 10 studio albums, including its latest, The World Ablaze, and aside from the last, I haven’t heard a note of it. Well, to be honest, chances are I’ve heard a tune here or there over the years, but I can’t recall any details. The root of my neglect is likely due to the fact that, over the course of its career, God Dethroned has at various points had the qualifiers blackened or melodic attached to its death metal, and I’m seldom in the mood for either. So, essentially, I’m going in cold for this review. My only frame of reference for God Dethroned’s work is the record at hand, which the promotional materials indicate is the third entry in the group’s trilogy of World War One-themed albums. This is a bit unfortunate, because in addition to my distaste for blackened and melodic death metal, the appeal of war-themed death metal is wearing a bit thin.
But enough about me, let’s see what these God Dethroned characters have to offer.
If nothing else, The World Ablaze sounds good. Dan Swanö did some of the knob twiddling, so the production is clear and full, perhaps a bit lacking in grit, but with plenty of punch. Not surprisingly, being a veteran act, the band can play. Guitarist/vocalist Henri Sattler is the sole remaining original member, but he’s filled God Dethroned’s ranks with solid performers. The lead guitar, in particular, stands out as a key voice in navigating the records narrative, capturing both the chaotic frenzy of battle and the somber desolation of its aftermath. That is not to say that Sattler’s voice doesn’t carry its own weight in the proceedings. His growling delivery is, in fact, quite intelligible, and even capable of delivering a few hooks.
To the meat of the matter: The tunes themselves are a little short on excitement. At its best, such as on the grooving outro to the title track, the band sounds like a light-weight Bolt Thrower, more often, however, God Dethroned sounds like its slogging through the same type of melo-death that Amon Amarth has perfected and/or ridden into the ground over the last 20 years. The songs are a bit too formulaic, and predictable. Furthermore, when compared to Bolt Thrower or even countrymen Hail of Bullets, God Dethroned seems a little short on the heavy artillery. It is the nature, I suppose, of melodic death metal to round off some of the jagged edges found in traditional death metal, but World War One was a conflict of unprecedented violence and destruction, and it’d be nice if the music on The World Ablaze reflected a little more of that.
The World Ablaze is a fairly well conceived and executed album, but, God Dethroned has put itself in a tough spot by performing a tired style of death metal, and choosing a lyrical theme that invites comparisons to a band few can measure up to. If The World Ablaze is emblematic of God Dethroned’s work as a whole, I don’t feel like I have missed much.